Improve at climbing without hills

Get climbing skills while training on the flat

If you’re preparing for a hilly ride but live in the flatlands, then follow these tips and release your inner mountain goat…


Cycling Plus magazine spoke to Dr Peter Giddings of Honed Coaching and Ric Stern of RST Sport for some training advice. Here are their top tips…

Coordinate your muscles for hills

“Climbing hills means lower speeds where a low and aerodynamic position is not as important,” says Dr Peter Giddings of Honed Coaching. “To help build strength and coordination in your pedalling muscles as you would use them on a climb, aim to ride your efforts or intervals with your hands on the tops of the bar to mimic an upright climbing style. This riding position also bumps up the wind resistance.”

Build staying power

“The challenge for long climbs is maintaining a strong pace, even as you run out of gears and the gradient is still biting,” says Giddings. “Build fatigue resistance and strength endurance by training at least once a week at a lower cadence of 65-75rpm. If you are new to riding make this session a normal endurance ride, but experienced riders should try low cadence threshold intervals to get the biggest gains. Don’t aim to climb at such a low cadence, but as the saying goes ‘train hard, race easy’.”


“I would recommend a combination of short and long intervals,” says Ric Stern of RST Sport. “The short ones would be five or six four- or five-minute efforts, ridden as hard as possible, with a minute off between each. The long ones would be 12 to 20 minutes as hard as you can for that duration, two or three times, with a couple of minutes’ rest between each effort. A third option would be three or four 30-second sprints as hard as you can. This mix would be good for both hills and the flat.”

Give me 20 reps

“When you go up hills and get out of the saddle, if you haven’t done it for a while, your arms can get sore very quickly and they can struggle to support you,” says Stern. “One really cold winter a couple of years ago I didn’t want to go out in the snow and ice so I just stuck to the turbo for three months. When I got back on the road my fitness was okay but at the first hill I came to I had massive pains across my arms and back. The following winter I did press-ups and tricep dips and that helped me a lot.”

Improving your upper body strength will help:

Improving your upper body strength will help


This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.